When football, same-sex marriage and politics collide
Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo is becoming well-known off the field for his support of same-sex marriage.
September 8th, 2012
02:48 PM ET

When football, same-sex marriage and politics collide

In his 10th NFL season, Baltimore Ravens linebacker Brendon Ayanbadejo is catching more attention for his political views than his special teams talents. And after a Maryland politician slammed his views on same-sex marriage, other NFL players are stepping up to defend Ayanbadejo's freedom of speech.

Ayanbadejo is a vocal supporter of same-sex marriage. He filmed video shorts for Equality Maryland and even wrote about same-sex marriage for the Huffington Post in 2009.

State lawmaker and minister Emmett C. Burns Jr. is a self-described Ravens fan, but in a letter sent to team owner Steve Bisciotti, Burns said it was "inconceivable" that Ayanbadejo was publicly endorsing same-sex marriage.

In the letter, written on August 29 and obtained by Yahoo! Sports, Burns wrote, "Many of my constituents and your football supporters are appalled and aghast that a member of the Ravens Football Team would step into this controversial divide and try to sway public opinion one way or the other. Many of your fans are opposed to such a view and feel it has no place in a sport that is strictly for pride, entertainment and excitement.

"I am requesting that you take the necessary action, as a National Football Franchise Owner, to inhibit such expressions from your employee and that he be ordered to cease and desist such injurious actions. I know of no other NFL player who has done what Mr. Ayanbadejo is doing."

In March, Democratic Gov. Martin O'Malley legalized same-sex marriage in Maryland, but the law doesn't take effect until 2013.

Amid the political convention-themed tweets filling his profile, Ayanbadejo responded on his Twitter page with this: "Football is just my job it's not who I am. I am an American before anything. And just like every American I have the right to speak!"

On Friday, he made a statement thanking Burns: "I'd have to thank him more than anything for bringing national attention to the issue." He also expressed surprise that Burns would try to silence him.

Minnesota Vikings punter Chris Kluwe wrote a letter for Deadspin. Laced with graphic language and disgust, he berated Burns for his views.

"Your vitriolic hatred and bigotry make me ashamed and disgusted to think that you are in any way responsible for shaping policy at any level," Kluwe wrote. "The views you espouse neglect to consider several fundamental key points, which I will outline in great detail (you may want to hire an intern to help you with the longer words)."

Kluwe went on to address (in the great detail he mentioned) the facets of the First Amendment, Burns' comment about athletes speaking out on issues, freedom in general and how little same-sex marriage would affect Burns' life.

"I can assure you that gay people getting married will have zero effect on your life," Kluwe wrote.

On Saturday, Kluwe published an edited version of the letter on the Twin Cities "Out of Bounds" blog, as well as a response to people complaining about his use of "colorful insults" in the original letter.

"The swearing is there for a reason," he wrote. "What Emmett C. Burns Jr. wrote, what I responded to, was far more disgusting and foul minded than any simple scatological reference or genital mashup."

Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker LaMarr Woodley also tweeted in support of Ayanbadejo - even though he's not "pro Raven about anything."

NFL Players Association President Domonique Foxworth told The Baltimore Sun that he was "disappointed" in Burns.

"I don’t know if I can come up with a strong enough word, but his request was asinine," Foxworth told the newspaper. "I think Brendon’s commendable. To step out into the fire and say something controversial, that’s not something that comes lightly."

On Friday, Ayanbadejo told The Baltimore Sun that team president Dick Cass let him know that the Ravens supported Ayanbadejo's ability to voice his opinion, and in a statement, Cass let everyone know that "We support Brendon's right to freedom of speech under the First Amendment" as an organization that doesn't discriminate.

What do you think about the dueling letters and Ayanbadejo's support of same-sex marriage that started it all? Let us know in the comments below.

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Filed under: Football • Politics • Pro football • Same-sex marriage • Sports
soundoff (768 Responses)
  1. kevin

    I can't believe someone in Football was courageous enough to stand up for what is right.In such a testosterone fueled sport it took alot of guts,(well played)

    September 9, 2012 at 7:24 am | Report abuse |
  2. katie

    AS A RAVENS FAN, and a straight Women. YOU DO NOT REPRESENT THE WHOLE OF MARYLAND OF BALTIMORIANS YOU IDIOT! How dare you write that letter to team ownership/management. How dare you step outside of your obligations to our state and your religion to publicly attack someone who is only doing what he can to reach out to a group of people and show his support. AS A CHRISTIAN I AM APPALLED BY YOUR ACTIONS, NOT HIS. YOU ARE "INJURIOUS" TO A NUMBER OF PEOPLE, how do you call yourself a minister? You are pathetic.

    September 9, 2012 at 7:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Football Fan

      Well said, why is this man so backwards.

      September 9, 2012 at 8:15 am | Report abuse |
    • Sockness Monster


      Thumbs up from Upstate New York.
      Go Buffalo !

      September 9, 2012 at 11:40 am | Report abuse |
  3. Rascal Rabble

    mr. burns is correct...ayanbadejo and kluwe need to use their talents to glorify God and what is good instead of condoning sin and its corruption...heroes are known and made to emulate virtues, but today's societal icons abuse their status and popularity to condone vice and promote immorality. how many times do you hear from the horse's mouth of celebrities that they do not even permit their own children to view their filth...such hypocrites!

    September 9, 2012 at 7:32 am | Report abuse |
    • Football Fan

      No true follower of god would show this much hate for fellow man. The bible I know teaches love and understanding for fellow man. The only thing these Christian extremist are archiving is chasing young people away from the church. Almost all other first world western countries allow gay marriage and we are suppose to be the free ones.

      September 9, 2012 at 8:27 am | Report abuse |
    • Rascal Rabble

      @football fan...here is what I say...it's not my fault a weedhead will never condemn pot...christianity and its principles suppresses no one...and the lawless is faithless to every principle except his own...you would know that better than anyone else...

      September 9, 2012 at 8:56 am | Report abuse |
    • DiedrichKyrian


      Please do not take away my 1st Amendment (and his too) rights and I will not strip one of yours.

      Given your words, I am going to assume you like the 2nd Amendment. So how about stripping that away from you and I will then allow you to stomp on my 1st Amendment rights. (Not Free Speech btw!)

      September 9, 2012 at 10:11 am | Report abuse |
    • Bimp The Wonder Panda

      I hope a lesbian tackles you for a safety.

      September 9, 2012 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      We have to listen to you and your garbage. I'd say the 1st amendment is alive and well.

      September 9, 2012 at 4:30 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Name*Johanness-Poul

    As a Canadian and living in Finland reading this. HURRAA HURRAA ! HURRAA. Those great football players, powers of examples Giving voice to our friends in USA who are Gay. AS an older Gay man, as a Canadian I can deeply appreciate all of this. Doing a happy Snoopy dance !
    I posted this article onto Facebook also ...

    September 9, 2012 at 7:43 am | Report abuse |
  5. Jokesterer

    Jeff Garcia approves this message.

    September 9, 2012 at 7:50 am | Report abuse |
  6. crazeelegs

    We wouldn't need the first amendment if everyone agreed on every subject. Thank goodness we do and that everyone does not.

    September 9, 2012 at 7:53 am | Report abuse |
  7. Terry

    Ayanbadejo, and anyone else, has a right to support what he believes is right. That he is in the public eye does not preclude him from having the same rights as any citizen of the US. Burns has the same right, but he is wrong in his attempt to suppress Ayanbadejo. Bravo to Ayanbadejo and to all stepping out to support his right to speak.

    September 9, 2012 at 7:59 am | Report abuse |
    • Nancy Verhelst

      I thought the reference to "having the same rights as every citizen", was very interesting in this discussion of free speech. I so agree with his right of free speech, but don't those "rights of every citizen" apply to gay people also?? Isn't this what this is all about, what's RIGHT AND FAIR'???? As the mother of a gay daughter, I applaud this Raven's opinion, and wait for the day, when my beautiful, talented daughter, who was born in America, can enjoy the same rights as every American!! No one, preaching from a pulpit, has the right to determine her future or rights, except her!!!!!! I respect anyones right to his/her religious beliefs, but DO NOT pass laws, affecting the rights of Americans, based on them!!

      September 9, 2012 at 8:50 am | Report abuse |
    • Rascal Rabble

      well,look whose preaching from the pulpit!i don't know what to tell you nancy: sorry for your loss or misery loves company....there are a lot of parents who do not share your plight nor wish h0m0s3xual!ty for their children...nor do they want be enablers of bad choices...further we do have standards and basis for establishing right and wrong...in america that standard are christian principles...

      September 9, 2012 at 9:13 am | Report abuse |
    • dcdingo

      good for you Nancy 🙂 despite some bigots, many of us in Maryland will be voting for her right to be married.
      Rascal, when we were forming this country on Christian principles, did that include the colony of Virginia invading and nearly eliminating the colony of Maryland because they were "stinking papists" (Catholics)? A theocracy we are not.. The founding fathers understood that setting any religious bar would crush this country. Once you claim is it Christian, they start beating on the Catholics. This was the first completely secular nation despite theocrats like yourself wanting to spew your lies.
      Marylanders, make sure you and everyone you know votes for equality. That's the only way to *truly* support religious freedom in our state.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:18 am | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      Rabble, your condemnation of people who do not share your beliefs is insidious and speaks directly against Christ's teachings. Be quiet. If you have any children that you haven't stoned to death yet, I feel sorry for them.

      September 9, 2012 at 4:33 pm | Report abuse |
  8. guest

    Look, if the President of Chick-fi-la can step out and run his mouth, this young man - and the REST OF US, have every right!

    September 9, 2012 at 8:01 am | Report abuse |
    • Rascal Rabble

      free speech is not the issue here as much as lack of public decency and the stupidity of a football player's poorly, ill-formed conscience...

      September 9, 2012 at 8:10 am | Report abuse |
    • topperG

      so is that what you call it, "stepping out and running his mouth"...I heard he was doing a personal interview for a religious magazine and just answered a couple simple questions. Had nothing directly to do with his business, had to do with his personal life. At which time weas then exploited by the gay radical machine,,,,frankly the team can support his right of free speech, however, from an NFL perspective, they don't do't want him speaking on behalf of the NFL and they are not going to take stance either way from a business sense becuase they don't need to....

      September 9, 2012 at 8:14 am | Report abuse |
    • Rascal Rabble

      oh stoppit...he was interviewed because he is a football player...and he used that status to support and attempt to legitimized lgtb agenda...most professions have an ethical component attached to their discipline...apparently he failed to honor that...too...

      September 9, 2012 at 8:24 am | Report abuse |
    • Fearless Freep

      free speech is not the issue here

      YES IT IS.

      September 9, 2012 at 11:48 am | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      Rabble, you would be doing public decency a favor by stopping your rampant hate speech of people who have done nothing to you, although, under the first amendment, you have the right to say it.

      September 9, 2012 at 4:36 pm | Report abuse |
  9. Rascal Rabble


    September 9, 2012 at 8:12 am | Report abuse |
  10. El Puko

    Chris Kluwe rocks.

    September 9, 2012 at 8:17 am | Report abuse |
  11. matt

    It's so sad we still live in a country full of ignorance and bigotry.

    September 9, 2012 at 8:25 am | Report abuse |
    • Nancy Verhelst

      AMEN to that!!!!!

      September 9, 2012 at 8:53 am | Report abuse |
    • nick212

      What are you suggesting? That we outlaw the Republican party ?

      September 9, 2012 at 9:12 am | Report abuse |
    • Fearless Freep


      What are you suggesting? That we outlaw the Republican party ?

      No, they provide too much entertainment and laughs.

      September 9, 2012 at 11:50 am | Report abuse |
  12. nick212

    The more regular Americans who stand up for equal rights for all citizens – the backbone of everything that is American – the sooner even devastating and crippling economic issues like political gridlock will become history.
    The politics of division and wedge issues are the tactics of parasites – and a desire to live off the contributions of others while denigrating everything they stand for.

    September 9, 2012 at 8:26 am | Report abuse |
  13. frank

    Emmett C. Burns Jr is part of the American Taliban, in his mind only his religious views matter and only he knows what is moral. What a myopic fool

    September 9, 2012 at 8:30 am | Report abuse |
    • Nancy Verhelst

      you are so right, but unfortunately, there are thousands, even millions more like him!! Bigotry is SO ugly!!!

      September 9, 2012 at 8:55 am | Report abuse |
    • Rascal Rabble

      ...you...presbyopic fools...!

      September 9, 2012 at 9:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      Rabble, uptight much?

      September 9, 2012 at 4:37 pm | Report abuse |
  14. Barney

    Mr. Burns obviously needs to be educated on the roles of free speech and religion in government. The NFL apparently passed the test! Go NFL!

    September 9, 2012 at 8:35 am | Report abuse |
    • Marc

      More than a little scary that a "supposed" lawmaker wants to censor free speech.

      September 9, 2012 at 8:49 am | Report abuse |
  15. Jay

    But it's OK for Tebow to be overtly religious in uniform and on the field? That's not political at all is it? Gutless hypocrites.

    September 9, 2012 at 8:39 am | Report abuse |
    • Chris

      Thats how we roll in the US. Checkout the Daily Shows contrasting of Fox news coverage from both conventions. It's Fridays episode.

      September 9, 2012 at 10:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Mitzi

      I saw it and two words come to mind: hypocrite much?

      September 9, 2012 at 4:38 pm | Report abuse |
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